City Paper is not for tourists
The creators of faith-based films, particularly films imbued with such extreme beliefs as those trumpeted in Left Behind, would be wise to avoid breaking the Golden Rule. Or, more crucially, its corollary: Judge not lest ye be judged. Yet when the rapture begins in Vic Armstrong’s remake of the 2000 Kirk Cameron film (both of which were adapted from the evangelical book series of the same name), those who were not, er, taken upward start throwing around all sorts of “crazy” theories about why millions of people disappeared in a blink. “Aliens? Come on!”
Well, filmmakers, now that you mention it, some people might find your Armageddon story about as plausible as alien abduction. Or, say, Sharknado. Thus, the famed proverbs of tolerance and kindness oft-cited by those pesky regular, nonevangelical Christians run counter to the script’s Why is this happening? brainstorms. You’re so judging—not to mention threatening anyone whose way to inner peace doesn’t match your own. You’ll be sorry.
But there’s a bigger-picture problem with the 2014 Left Behind: Who the fuck sat in a Hollywood pitch meeting and said, “We just gotta remake that Kirk Cameron movie!” And then, worse: “Get Nic Cage on the line.” It’s interesting that the IMDb synopses make the two films sound like different beasts, with the Cage version wholly omitting any mention of the Bible, the rapture, or Christ. Indeed, it’s categorized as “sci fi/thriller” (as opposed to Cameron’s “drama/fantasy”). Hey, moviegoers, this is practically Godzilla! Didn’t you love Godzilla?
Regardless of its head-scratching conception, though, Left Behind is terrible. And it’s not even Cage’s fault. In fact, he underplays in his role as pilot Rayford Steele (!), the philandering husband of a born-again wife (Lea Thompson) and father of Chloe (Cassi Thomson), who comes home from college for Steele’s birthday. Rayford knows of her visit, but instead chooses to fly to London (“it’s work, honey”) to seal the deal with a flirty flight attendant, Hattie (Nicky Whelan).
Chloe takes her younger brother to the mall to console herself. And at one point, when she gives the rascal a big ol’ hug—well, she’s left holding nothing but his clothes, and the mall suddenly goes all Black Friday as others disappear, too. Cut to Rayford’s plane, with the select vanishings escalating the usual passenger air rage.
Left Behind continues to alternate between Chloe and Rayford’s perspective, with the script (by Paul Lalonde and John Patus) asking for little of the cast besides running around and yelling through tears. (That’s still marginally better than its attempts at humor, which include the confused conversation of an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s.) Oh, and an “investigative journalist,” as he’s frequently identified, played by Chad Michael Murray, is also a significant character, with not much purpose beyond providing a spark of (licit) romance and ensuring that someone on the flight could record the situation. (Maybe the smartphones and iPads disappeared with the children?)
There’s exactly one scene that’s a little eerie—when Chloe walks through a hospital’s empty nursery—but similar shots can be found in a billion zombie movies. For the most part, Left Behind isn’t even so-bad-it’s-good. (Well, maybe when Chloe whips out a Bible that shatters a window, or when Rayford has to console Hattie because she just found out he’s married. “Hattie, this isn’t about us.”) Like many faith-based films, it will be embraced by believers and ignored by nonbelievers. And to everyone behind the remake who thought this was a good idea: Ye be judged.
Left Behind opens Oct. 3 in wide release.